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Cheap Things I Do

by Ouida on November 6, 2010


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Okay so like I’m middle aged.  I think middle aged people tend to conduct their affairs in pretty much the same way.  Middle aged people tend to reflect on their lives and decide ultimately that people, more than things, are important.  I know that is true for me and I think is the reason why the fastest growing demographic on Facebook are people in middle age.  We are trying to recover those connections that we lost on the road to getting somewhere.  Middle aged people have acquired all the things they want or have adjusted their wants not to want so much and start to clear the clutter from their lives.  A few years ago my home flooded.  I was racing about the house trying to save things that were doing their best to die a water-logged death.  I realized then that I had way too many things.  A friend remarked as she viewed my personal possessions strewn about the back yard to dry, that my yard looked like the Sanford and Son junk yard. I began to de-clutter then out of necessity, but clutter is the natural state of our lives and de-cluttering requires conscious living and constant vigilence. Middle aged people also tend to become more frugal.  Retirement is just around the corner and we have to think about that.  A friend of mine recently told me about a trip out with his wife.  She wanted to go out for a burger.  He checked the fridge to see if they had the ingredients to make a burger at home.  They did not. Realizing that they would have to eat out, my friend grabbed a slice of American Cheese and put it in his breast pocket. He wanted to save the cost of the cheese for the cheeseburger.  My same friend enjoys a glass of wine with dinner.  The problem is that drinks with a meal can increase the tab by 30% to 50% and the mark up on beverages is routinely 300%.  So his solution is to bring his own wine and have a glass in the parking lot before going into the restaurant. While I don’t port my own cheese and wine, there are things that I do to save money.  All of my friends enjoy life,  time with their families,and  sharing the occasional meal out and traveling, what we all have in common is the desire to plug the crazy money leaks that can keep us from doing those very things.  I use online banking to save both time and money.  If you use online banking the customer service division at your bank is at your disposal should a payment go missing. Years ago I would have to wait for a check to clear then obtain a copy of that check to prove that I made a payment  No so with online banking, they have an electronic trail and they will make contact with your “payees” should your payment go missing.  I recently had an experience in which my bank caught one of my service providers holding a payment until it generated a late fee before crediting my account.  I ditched that service provider and got a cheaper plan with a competitor. I canceled my cable/dish subscription.  Most households spend over a thousand bucks a year on those subscription services.  You would have to become a zombie in front of the TV in order to get enough “value” to justify that cost.  I watch TV on the Internet instead.  Fewer commercials, less time to watch each show and I only watch what I want to watch when I want to watch it.  I reuse ziploc bags and aluminum foil.  As a result I only buy those items once a year.  I buy Amway SA8 laundry detergent.  It is super concentrated, eco-friendly, hypoallergenic, dissolves completely in the wash, gets my clothes clean and I only have to buy it once a year. Even though rates of return for savings are ghastly at all banks, I use virtual banks for my savings.  They offer higher rates and are FDIC insured.  I use a frequent flier credit card for charges I would make anyway, utilities, groceries and gas, and redeem the points for flights.   Since 2005 I have saved $1000 per year in air fare.  I negotiate big ticket items.  My money is very patient, I don’t have to spend it right away and, as a result, before making a purchase I ask, “can you do any better?” If I am shopping online and find an item I like, I always Google that item to see if I can find it cheaper. I almost always can.  I keep a “most wanted” list to curb impulse buying.  I am storing my DVDs and CDs in iTunes so that I can donate the hard copies and continue to de-clutter my life.  We have a garden and eat at home.  We go out maybe 4 times a month.  I don’t slavishly shop at Wal-Mart assuming I am getting the best quality for the deal.   I shop at Wal-Mart, Safeway and the local food co-op.  I had an electrician install a digital, programmable thermostat.  It has saved 20% on my heating costs.  I hire professionals to do work that I have either no business doing or work that isn’t in my best interest to do.  I am a big “do it your selfer”. But being a DIYer can put you in a time and financial hole as deep and as wide as the Grand Canyon (okay that is hyperbole but you get the point).  The trick is to figure out the tasks I should do and the ones I should not do.  Let’s go back to the thermostat.  I had it for 6 months before it was finally installed.  The instructions and the wiring that went with it were very complicated and carried dire warnings that a wiring mistake could result in furnace damage.  I added the installation onto a planned project that required an electrician, the thermostat got installed and I am saving money which wouldn’t have been the case if I had clung to my DIY tendencies.

I would love to know about those cheap things you do!

Please comment.

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